Mapping Indigenous Engagements

The social cartographies below (that are still work in progress) show two iterations of our attempts to map problematic (i.e. extractive and instrumentalizing) aspects of engagements with Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing and being, and to articulate, in the “Towards Braiding” possibility, the commitments and dispositions that would be necessary to create the conditions for generative and ethical collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous sensibilities.

The first iteration of the social cartography maps engagement approaches against two dimensions of learning: learning about one’s complicity in systemic, historical and ongoing violence; and learning how to appreciate, respect and relate ethically to Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Social Cartography 1

In the second iteration we wanted to show that both awareness and appreciation were not enough to create the conditions for the interruption of harmful patterns of engagement. In other words, neither awareness nor appreciation are expressions of “accountability”, which is an aspect of learning that requires both self-implication and a form of visceral responsibility towards not only harm reduction, but also harm interruption. Accountability relates to a form of unconditional solidarity for the “long haul” that can hold space for complexities, paradoxes, tensions, frustrations, failures, mistakes, pain and conflict. This form of solidarity requires both humility and self-reflexivity: a de-centering of the self beyond the virtue-signalling tropes of “feeling good, looking good, doing good and moving forward” and beyond the romanticizations and idealizations often projected onto Indigenous peoples.

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 12.19.27

Download a PDF of the two iterations here (PDF).

In the book “Towards Braiding” we define braiding (p. 21-22) as:

“… a practice yet-to-come located in a space in-between and at the edges of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of knowing and being, aiming to calibrate each sensibility towards a generative orientation and inter-weave their strands to create something new and contextually relevant, while not erasing differences, historical and systemic violences, uncertainty, conflict, paradoxes and contradictions.

Braiding is not a form of synthesis in which two approaches are combined in order to create a new, third possibility to replace them both. Braiding is also not the result of selective, “salad bar”-style engagements with both sides, taking the “best” or most convenient elements of each and combining them; nor is it the result of an antagonism in which one side emerges triumphant over the other. Instead, braiding is premised on respecting the continued internal integrity of both orientations, even as neither side is static or homogenous, and even as both sides might be transformed in the process of braiding. Braiding opens up different possibilities for engagement without guarantees about what might emerge from those engagements. Braiding is not an endpoint, but rather an ongoing and emergent process. It is not possible to determine what braiding will look like before it occurs. In fact, we propose three “steps towards braiding” that need to happen before any braiding is even possible:

1. a deep understanding of historical and systemic harms and their snowball effects needs to become “common sense,” and not something to be avoided, dismissed, or
minimized out of a fear of hopelessness, guilt or shame;

2. a language that makes visible the generative and non-generative manifestations of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous sensibilities needs to be developed, without becoming rigid, prescriptive or accusatory;

3. a set of principled commitments towards the “long-haul” of this process needs to be in place, including a commitment to continue the work even/especially when things become difficult and uncomfortable.”

The two iterations of this social cartography aims to identify what steps 1 and 3 could entail.


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